- - Monday, August 25, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It goes by a variety of names: Shaping; Intelligence Preparation of the Battle Space (IPB); Operational Preparation of the Environment (OPE).

These are the first steps in any campaign and they are designed to maximize the chances of success before the campaign even begins — or at least before everyone recognizes that it has begun.

We’re seeing this now in the prerelease comments by people eager to support the Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats’ report on CIA detentions and interrogations.

Human Rights First, an advocacy group for “American Ideals-Universal Values,” has been particularly active and recently ran quarter page ads in the Washington Post over five consecutive days announcing that “The Truth on Torture Is Coming.”

Human Rights First has been on this issue since the middle of the Bush Administration and over the years has enlisted several dozen retired military leaders to its cause. Sixteen of those officers were standing behind President Obama in the Oval Office two days into the administration as he signed an executive order confining all American interrogations to the techniques in the Army Field manual.

More recently, several op-eds have appeared over the names of some of HRF’s senior military supporters. Retired Major General Antonio Taguba, who headed the Army’s Abu Ghraib investigation, penned in the New York Times that CIA’s program was “more widespread and brutal than Americans were lead to believe [that] CIA misled Bush administration officials and Congress and that torture (sic) was ineffective.”

A wide variety of leaks, presumably from Capitol Hill, indeed allege that these are the conclusions of the report. Less clear is why Gen. Taguba seems to accept them at face value. Has he seen the Senate Democrat report? And has he seen the CIA and Republican rebuttals that challenge those conclusions?

If he has, he has had more access than all but a very few former CIA senior officers whose actions are cataloged there but who have been denied access. And if he hasn’t had access?

Gen. Taguba equates the CIA program with the “sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses” at Abu Ghraib. He obviously believes that to be true, but ignores the facts that CIA’s program was authorized by the highest levels of the U.S. government, declared lawful on four occasions by the Department of Justice, monitored by an Inspector General, and briefed to the leadership of Congress. He also neglects to add that multiple extensive criminal investigations have led to but one indictment and conviction.

One might oppose the CIA program, but Abu Ghraib it ain’t.

Gen. Taguba also equates his own unblinking documentation of Abu Ghraib with the Senate report. I wish that that were so. His investigation into Abu Ghraib lasted four months and nearly 50 people were interviewed about the awful deeds at that prison. The Senate Democrat report on CIA has been in the works for five years, but its authors still haven’t found time to interview anyone directly involved.

Former Marine Corps Commandant General Charles Krulak and former Central Command Chief General Joseph Hoar hit similar themes in the Chicago Tribune. In fact, their listing of alleged CIA sins is nearly identical to that of Gen. Taguba. So too is a complaint that support for “torture” has ticked up in recent years in the United States.

And both articles single out George Tenet as working with CIA to shape the agency’s response to the SSCI Democrat report; the Tribune piece even alleges that current CIA leadership had “enlisted” him.

Now that’s a stretch since George — like Porter Goss and myself — was given a short window of 10 work days in late July to review the 500 page “summary” (and the two rebuttals) and then had to sign a nondisclosure agreement promising not to discuss any of the contents publicly until the SSCI Democrats decide to release their document. None of us had any influence on the agency response other than an understandable plea to make it as robust and honest as possible.

And that actually might be the issue. Supporters of the SSCI report are likening CIA opposition to the SSCI Democrats’ conclusions as an attack on oversight itself. CIA’s clumsy investigation into how Senate staffers acquired some documents feeds this story line, but forcefully saying the report is badly flawed isn’t a constitutional crisis — it’s a disagreement over facts.

The current battle line is over redactions to the document; reportedly 15 percent has been excised to protect sources, methods and identities. SSCI Democrats have complained the redactions gut the report. I tend to doubt it, but I have not seen the redactions and — I might add — neither have those commentators who are claiming they are prima facie evidence of a CIA cover up.

By the way, these are not merely CIA or DNI redactions. They were approved by the White House. This is the executive branch position.

Which brings us to the current impasse. Will the White House bend and put sensitive information back into the document prior to its release?

This should be a fairly clinical process. Great weight should be given to the judgment of professionals on what information, if disclosed, would harm national security. But I fear this will be more political than clinical.

The administration recently released the Department of Justice’s legal opinion on the 2011 targeted killing of Anwar Aulaqi, an American citizen. More than 70 percent of that document was redacted.

In 2009, the administration released a similar DOJ opinion on the Bush Administration’s interrogation program. The Obama Administration overruled strong CIA objections on security grounds at the time and published the document nearly intact. Only 18 lines were redacted in 18 single space pages.

Like I said at the beginning, there’s a whole lot of “shaping” going on.

Including, I suppose, in the eyes of some, this article. But in this case, the spin is simply “don’t rush to judgment.”

Some are trying to get you to accept their bottom line on a report neither they nor you have read. And I am trying to get you, before you make up your mind, to stop and read the rebuttals and ask yourself why no one who had access to the ground truth was interviewed.

Gen. Michael Hayden is a former director of the CIA and the National Security Agency. He can be reached at mhayden@washingtontimes.com.

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